February 01 2012 01:10AM
Unbelievably, what happened next didn't result in a goal.
It was a fast paced, hard-fought regular season classic at Rogers Arena on Tuesday night, which, was what we expected with the Blackhawks in town. It was also the first head-to-head game between the two clubs since Dave Bolland publicly called the Sedin twins "sisters" who "sleep in bunk-beds." Despite the history and the animosity, it was a largely clean game that featured only two penalties. With the Canucks vaunted power-play neutered, the Blackhawks proceeded to out-shoot and out-chance the Canucks throughout the game. The Blackhawk advantage was particularly noticeable in the second frame (usually the Canucks weakest) but they failed to capitalize on an assortment of gift-wrapped goals off of turnovers, and odd-man rushes.
Finally, the Blackhawks took the lead early in the third period on a Stalberg back-hander, but Cody Franchise tied the game a few minutes later as the Canucks capitalized on a lazy break-out by Blackhawks rookie sensation Andrew Shaw and Jonathan Toews (who was otherwise dominant). Eventually the twins combined to win it in overtime, but not before Cory Schneider put an exclamation mark on his dominant evening, stopping two straight Blackhawk breakaways in the extra frame.
A full recap, chance data and tonight's statistical three stars after the jump.
- My impulse would usually be to make a whole bunch of "hell hath no fury like two sisters scorned" jokes in regards to the game-sealing overtime shift, in which the Sedins made Bolland and Keith look like a couple of wide-eyed orphan kittens, in a Disney reboot of a Dickens novel. But frankly, the Blackhawks defensive center deserves more credit than that on this particular evening. His line, along with wingers Kruger and Shaw out-possessed the Sedins throughout the game, and out-chanced them head-to-head 5-3 (not counting overtime). While the Sedins had two totally surreal shifts in overtime against "the Rat," credit where it's due: Bolland was a force tonight.
- Bolland's stellar play also allowed his teammates to crush it in somewhat easier minutes, Toews' line took advantage, while Morrison's did not. While I noticed that Jonathan Toews wasn't "clutch" enough to end the game in over-time, he annihilated the Canucks possession wise. His even-strength chance differential was +11, and he personally shot both Blackhawks power-play scoring chances in the game for a total chance differential of +13. That qualifies as complete, unmitigated dominance.
- Morrison, Hossa and Sharp on the other hand, all finished squarely in the red according to the chance data. They spent most of their evening matched up against Hodgson's line, and it's a very promising sign to see the Canucks' red-hot rookie pivot handle a top possession-driving forward like Hossa at even-strength. They don't call him Cody Franchise for nothing.
- Seriously, "the Franchise" has reached the point where - when he got that breakaway late in the third period - you had no doubt that he was going to finish. Clutch is a descriptive, not a predictive term and it's not some magical Calvinist property that only belongs to the pre-destined. All of that said, Cody Franchise is money in the bank with time and space:
- While the Sedins were dominant in overtime, through sixty minutes they had what most would call "a quiet game." This isn't entirely fair, they were easily the Canucks most productive offensive forwards, but they lost their key matchup against Bolland and gave up a few more chances then they created overall. There are always going to be moments, like when they nearly set up a Burrows slap-pass double deflection goal in the first period, where the twins defy logic and physics. Tonight, however, was an average performance by their lofty standard. Credit Dave Bolland sure, but also credit the Blackhawks total team discipline. The Blackhawks have now exceeded 130 straight minutes of even-strength play against the Canucks in which they haven't taken so much as an incidental minor. If you take the Sedins power-play ice-time away, you can pretty much force them to have a couple of quiet nights against you.
- That changes, however, in over-time. When the Sedins have some space to work with, they're not just dangerous, they're hockey poets. On one shift nearly two minutes into overtime they sent the puck, cross seam back and forth once each. The Blackhawks knew what they were trying to do, and had two defenders covering that passing lane, but the Sedins still got the puck back and forth to each other. It was ghoulish in its precision, and a lot of fun to watch.
- Their final shift, that started with 1:51 remaining in overtime and lasted until Daniel scored with 1:24 left on the clock, was straight out of a Hitchcock film. Forget that old-school tubby dude with the long nose and the famous silhouette, Canucks fans know who the real masters of suspense are.
- On the game-winning goal, Henrik loses the face-off to Dave Bolland, but charges into the boards and manages to retrieve the puck to his brother Daniel. Daniel takes it behind the net while being harassed by Duncan Keith and passes it to the right point. Salo dishes to Edler who sends a cross-seam pass to Henrik at the circle. Rather than rush a shot, Henrik dips below the net and engages with Keith along the boards and maintains possession as Edler, and then Salo jump down from the point looking for a pass. Instead of forcing a pass through the slot, Henrik plays it to his eventual target - his brother - who is back up along the half wall. That little, four foot pass creates the necessary space for Henrik to put Keith in relative no-mans land. Once Henrik gets the puck back, Keith is no longer aggressively playing Henrik, he's attempting to play the pass; and playing the pass against the twins is a loser proposition.
Salo jumps down from the point, and briefly drops below the red-line, where a quick one-timer would be extremely hard to stop. Salo's positioning, and the sustained, menacing puck movement causes the Blackhawks, especially Duncan Keith and Dave Bolland a fatal moment of confusion. Daniel capitalizes finds an open pocket in their coverage, receives the pitch-perfect pass from his brother, and sends the game-winner five-hole on Crawford. Seriously, I would fly that shift out to Monaco and party with it, but I just can't work up the guts to go talk to it.
- For a guy who has lost his job, Manny Malhotra sure is useful. 13 defensive zone starts, even plus/minus, positive adjusted possession numbers and he led all forwards on the team in ice-time on the penalty kill. Not too shabby.
- On defense, with the exception of Bieksa's momentary pylon impression on the Jamal Mayers goal, Hamhuis and Bieksa were rock solid tonight. Just another day at the office for one the leagues best tough minutes pairings. Salo and Edler on the other hand, were a qualified mess in their own end and Salo especially got his teeth kicked in from a possession stand-point. Rome and Ballard had a couple of good shifts together, but Rome was sieve like on the evening, while Ballard was steady but unremarkable. The big exception, was that one end-to-end rush Ballard had that resulted in a scoring chance and a chance created for the team's fastest skater. It was good to see KB4 combine his always remarkable skating ability with a fine bit of decision making in the offensive zone, there's been too few sequences like that in his Canucks tenure.
- Finally, we'd be remiss if we didn't gush for a minute about Cory Schneider's game tonight. The Canucks should've been buried by the Blackhawks in the second period, as Cory Schneider faced a litany of breakaways and odd-man rushes from the Blackhawks best. He also got himself into trouble with a morning radio show giveaway to Brendan Morrison. His recovery save on that play was preposterous, but it's troubling to see him continue to struggle with his stick-handling. Unlike Luongo, who technically isn't a particularly good stick-handler, Cory Schneider has the raw-tools to be very good at handling the puck. I have to believe he'll improve with more experience, and anyway, Schneider more than made up for that error with his body of work tonight. He just continues to play remarkable hockey.
Statistical Three Stars
- Cory Schneider - I mean, are you kidding me? 37 saves, 20 chance saves, 2 breakaway stops in overtime. No contest.
- Dan Hamhuis - Played twenty four minutes and was on the ice for only 5 of the team's total chances against. That means the 36 minutes Dan Hamhuis was on the bench, resulted in the other 22 Blackhawks chances. Also, Hamhuis created the chance that resulted in Hodgson's game-tying goal, with a typically stunning breakout pass.
- Manny Malhotra - He plays the hardest minutes in the league, and is so vital in terms of keeping the opposition off the scoreboard. He was as steady as a rock tonight. Not bad for an unemployed, jobless dude.
Scoring Chance Data:
A scoring chance is any puck clearly directed on-net from within home-plate. Generally speaking, we are willing to be more generous with the boundaries of home-plate based on dangerous puck movement if it immediately precedes the scoring chance, or if the scoring chance is screened. If you want to get a visual handle on home-plate, check this image. Big thanks to Vic Ferrari whose timeonice.com scripts enable this entire operation.
|VAN||4||1:24||Daniel GWG Goal||6||22||23||33||35||2||7||36||50||88||4v4
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|